The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, March 11th, 2019

MorPhun 3/11 - Suzana Fong on Brazilian Portuguese participles

Speakers: Suzana Fong (MIT)
Title: Regular and athematic participles in Brazilian Portuguese
Time: Monday, March 11th, 5-6:30 pm
Location: 32-D831


In Brazilian Portuguese, the regular participial (PTC) form of the verb can be parsed as follows:

(1) com-i-d-as
‘eaten’ [where ‘TH’ is a theme vowel]

Besides a regular form (2a), some verbs also allow for an additional short form of the PTC (2b):

(2) a. Regular participle
b. Short/Athematic participle

Short PTC’s like (2b) lack both the participial morpheme (-d in (1) and (2a)) and a theme vowel (-a in (2a)), hence why they are referred to as athematic PTC’s.

In this presentation, I focus on the distribution of the PTC when both a regular and an athematic form is in principle available. In particular, we will look at the PTC form(s) that occur(s) in three constructions: verbal passives (3a), adjectival passives (3b), and absolute participles (3c).
(3) a. Verbal passive: regular or athematic PTC allowed
As gavetas foram limp-a-d-as / limp-as pelo João.
the drawers were cleaned(REG) / cleaned(ATHEM) by.the João
‘The drawers were cleaned by João.’

b. Adjectival passive: only athematic PTC allowedAs gavetas estão/permanecem *limp-a-d-as / limp-as.
the drawers are/remain *cleaned(REG) / cleaned(ATHEM)
‘The drawers are/remain clean.’
c.Absolute participles: only regular PTC allowed[ Limp-a-d-as / *Limp-as as gavetas ], o João pôde ir descansar.
[ cleaned(REG) / *cleaned(ATHEM) the drawers ] the João could go rest
‘The drawers having been cleaned, João could go rest.’
I propose a tentative analysis where the athematic PTC (2b) arises as a consequence of a fusion rule that targets v and the root. Whether or not that rule can be applied will depend on the size of a given PTC construction, which in turn determines how much structure is Spelled-Out. Specifically:

  • In absolute participles like (3c), v and the root are Spelled-Out separately, bleeding the context of application of the proposed fusion rule. Only a regular PTC can then be realized.
  • In adjectival participles like (3b), v and the root are part of the same Spell-Out domain, which allows for fusion to apply. As a consequence, an athematic PTC can be used in this construction.
  • In verbal passives like (3a), two derivations are possible. In one of these derivations, and the root are Spelled-Out separately, just as in absolute participles, hence why a regular PTC arises. In the other — equally convergent — derivation, v and the root are Spelled-Out together, just as in adjectival passives, hence why an athematic PTC arises.


LF Reading Group 3/13 - Frank Staniszewski (MIT)

Speakers: Frank Staniszewski (MIT)
Title: Marty & Romoli (2019)
Time: Wednesday, March 13th, 1-2 pm
Location: 32-D461

I will present Marty & Romoli’s new paper “Presupposed Free Choice” (which expands on material discussed in  Gajewski & Sharvit (2012) and  Spector & Sudo (2017)). I will also explore possible connections with some of my work in progress on ‘until’ phrases, which I hypothesize should be treated as free choice items.


Ling-Lunch 3/14 - Chris Tancredi (Keio University)

Speaker: Chris Tancredi (Keio University)
TitleDe dicto, de re and de qualitate unified
Time: Thursday, 3/14, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461


Past approaches to the semantics of belief statements have argued for a multiplicity of distinct interpretations, including de dicto, de re, de qualitate and de translato.  The need for ambiguity in attitude statements is clear from the potential truth of sentences like Ralph believes Ortcutt is a spy, but he doesn’t believe ORTCUTT is a spy.  However, I argue that the only ambiguity specific to attitude statements is the de translato/non-de translato distinction.  In particular, I show how to reduce de dicto/de re/de qualitate interpretations to a single form.  The key to the reduction is to analyze the embedded clause of an attitude statement as denoting a proposition inferable from an underlying belief of the subject rather than denoting the subject’s underlying belief itself.  I show that the semantics developed can account for attitudes toward necessary as well as impossible propositions, and that it further can account for the range of entailments felt to hold among multiple attitude statements.


Comp-Lang reading group - Danfeng Wu (MIT Linguistics)

Speaker: Danfeng Wu (MIT Linguistics)
TitleSyntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction Chapters 9.3-9.9 by Sag, Wasow and Bender (2003)
Location: 46-5165
Time: Thursday, 3/14, 5-6pm


What is the role of psycholinguistic evidence (specifically evidence from language processing) in the study of language? What is the relation between knowledge of language and use of language? We hope to explore these questions through a discussion of an HPSG textbook chapter. HPSG (Head-driven phrase structure grammar) is a different syntactic framework from generative transformational grammar, and is surface-oriented, constraint-based and strongly lexicalist. This textbook chapter argues that HPSG is more compatible than transformational grammar with observed facts about language processing. For instance, language processing is incremental and rapid (e.g. Tanenhaus et al. 1995 & 1996, Arnold et al. 2002). The order of presentation of the words largely determines the order of the listener’s mental operations in comprehending them. And lexical choices have a substantial influence on processing (MacDonald et al. 1994). For these reasons, such psycholinguistic evidence supports an HPSG type of grammar, and poses difficulty to transformational grammar.